Anticipation. Excitement. Trepidation. Anxiety. These are a few of the things I felt when I boarded the plane headed to London to join my cohort of 10, two previous cohorts, professors, administrators, and our lead mentor for the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives England Advance 2016. That’s a huge title, isn’t it? Normally I shorten it to DMin LGP Advance 2016, which makes it a little easier to set aside the future and compartmentalize why we traveled to places like London and Oxford just a few weeks into our program.
Honestly, that future is daunting because we are working toward becoming doctors. Doctors of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives. That is huge. As Cliff Berger notes, “The Doctor of Ministry is in a practical sense a ‘doctor of the church,’ whose concern is with drawing from the best research and scholarship for diagnosis and treatment, for the health and well-being of the church.” Every one of us feels called to become, in some sense, a change agent for the health and well-being of the church. A task that big threatens to overwhelm, so it is safer to focus on the journey rather than the end game.
We set aside our lives at home to fly around the world (or take the train from Plymouth) in order to hear some of the best leaders in England tell us their thoughts and actions as change agents for the Kingdom. We listened for hours to women and men who are exploring new ways to be the church in England, to our professors share the burdens of leadership studies they are carrying, to experience the flavors and culture of a country that most decidedly lives in a post-Christian era.
But I actually expected all of that. I had carefully pored over all the information I could get regarding the people who would be sharing with us and, hopefully, helping us to shift our gaze toward creativity and innovation in our own country and our own communities. I had studied pictures of London and Oxford, tried to imagine our classrooms, and dreamed of how I would come home with a fresh perspective. I went eager to receive wisdom and to learn to be a better leader from experts.
While the learning sessions rocked my world, challenged me to think outside the box, and even put down deep roots for ideas that may not come to fruition for years, it was not the expertise that transformed me. It was not the architecture or the creative systems of ministry that moved me. I didn’t really understand what had happened until I got home. I had fallen in love.
Yes, of course I fell in love with London and Oxford. I could see myself living happily in that little neighborhood near our hotel or in a flat just off the main road at Oxford. But as I looked back through my pictures, I often found myself flipping quickly past the scenery and the incredible architecture to find the familiar faces. The faces of my people. I had fallen in love with people whom, for the most part, I had only just met. I don’t know exactly when it happened. Maybe it was when we all stared with wide-eyed terror as our professors tried to explain exactly what would be expected of us over the next three years. Maybe it was when our lead mentor, Jason, spent the evening with us in a pub, laughing and sharing stories. Or perhaps it was when one of our advisors, MaryKate, opened her heart to us in complete vulnerability as she shared a lecture on a biblical woman mistreated by those who were called to protect her. Somehow, over the course of ten days, nine other students, three advisors, a lead mentor, three administrators, and one delightful teenager became my people. Those nine other students became my family, my partners in crime, and the rock I can cling to as we weather this journey together. We are the Sevens.
So what does all of that have to do with making me a better leader? Lowney states that the Jesuits “equipped their recruits to succeed by molding them into leaders who…engaged others with a positive, loving attitude.” In other words, the best leaders engaged in collaboration, not competition. The Jesuits gathered together the committed and developed them into the aptissimi – the very best. Every person who is part of the Sevens has committed her or his life to leadership. We have all come to this place together to become the aptissimi, not for our own sakes or for some bizarre notion of ivory tower achievement, but for the sake of the body of Christ. Every day, from day one, we have engaged each other with that “positive, loving attitude.” We have taken turns – in person, over the phone, via Facebook messenger – holding each other up. We have talked each other out of giving up, cried over losses, shared stories of joy, and prayed without ceasing. We have become a team of leaders with a rock solid foundation and mentors who guide us and challenge us to become the very best for the sake of the Kingdom.
As I was looking through my pictures, I realized how many things I learned simply from participating and leaning in to relationship with my amazing teachers, mentors, and fellow travelers. I began to see that we have become a visual lesson in leadership for each other and for the world that is watching. So that’s exactly what I created – a visual set of lessons on leadership, from the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives England Advance 2016. Enjoy.
. Cliff Berger, George Fox Seminary blogs, http://blogs.georgefox.edu/seminary/what-is-a-doctor-of-ministry/#sthash.6IKNcXCh.dpuf
. “The Sevens” is short-hand for our cohort. We are the seventh cohort in the Leadership and Global Perspectives DMin program.
. Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership,(Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003), 9.
. Chris Lowney, 286.